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Breaking news: the skies are safe

To just about everyone who pays attention at the airport and flies often enough to see the idiocy of both TSA policy and individual TSA agents not as the exception but as the general rule (to which there are probably exceptions), the following true story will be boring.

We’ve all seen the kind of TSA agent I’m about to describe. Self-important. Officious. But at least polite, even if patronizingly and perfunctorily so. And obviously the biggest geek in his high school. You know exactly who I’m talking about (at least 6o% of TSA agents).

This guy — let’s call him Neil, as in Neil Diamond, the King of Cool, ya ask me — was standing alongside the security line, blankly staring at the ground as he twirled his hand-test swabber-thingamajig (it looked like a mini toilet-bowl cleaner) for at least a good minute.

I admit, it was fun to watch — it felt for a moment like I was enjoying one of those Cirque de Soleil fruitballs that dance as they twirl a colorful ribbon (for the record, I’ve never been to one but have seen the commercials — oh, and there’s an Olympic event that incorporates these fine ribbon routines too), the only minor difference being it was only a frumpy tool in a blue uniform who I guess wasn’t in the mood to dance. I was sucked in; it was rather fun and mezmerizing the way the toiletbowl cleaner twirled. But I came out of it and was starting to wonder why this guy didn’t make himself useful by opening another security line to speed things up when he, too, snapped out of his trance quickly, as if he heard me thinking, clearly remembering he had a job to do: act like an officious tool protecting us from terrorists.

He surveyed the line and picked a gum-smacking young lady in front of me and said, “Ma’am, please hold out your palms so I can test them,” and then wiped her hands with the toiletbowl cleaner and walked back a few yards to his little machine. When he left it, chuckling about something or other with his TSA compadre, I breathed a sigh of relief that likely the only thing on the college kid’s palms was residue from her Bubble Yum. I said to her, “Well, I’m relieved: the friendly skies are safe; you’re not a terrorist.” Her boyfriend replied, “Oh, that’s, not it: it’s psychological,” meaning, I assumed, that the agent wasn’t looking for terrorists at all but was instead intimidating them by testing people we can all be safely sure in surmising are decidedly not terrorists.

Spoken like a good, dutiful liberal, right? But anyway.

Then our fearless public servant Neil surveyed the line again and picked a white, 30-something mother of at least three children, who were with her and her husband, and asked her to hold out her palms for the toiletbowl cleaner.

I’m on my flight, and it goes almost without saying that I feel completely safe from those who might have plotted to take the plane down, but who likely left the security line as a result of the “psychological” defenses this great nation has erected to thwart their dastardly plans.

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